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Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Cleanliness is Next to......the Wood Shed.....Just Behind the Compost Bin...."

Ah, summer...Good Humor trucks tinkling tunes in your neighborhood,  running barefoot in the grass, swinging in a hammock with the Bobbsey Twins,  peeling sunburns, scratching mosquito bites, and endless popsicles.  The list could go on and on.  Summer for us, here at Provident Heritage Farm on Bench Road in pastoral Bear Lake tucked away in a sleepy corner of Idaho, usually means all of the above AND endless weeding.  We arise early to work in the cool of the day and collapse in our beds at night to the symphony of crickets and the occasional passing freight train.  Is it as good as it gets?  Usually we would nod vigorously and slap another steak on the grill.
Our summer reverie received an unanticipated jolt this summer when we returned from China in mid June to well issues.  What went wrong with our well is a subject for another time carried on by someone far more mechanical than I.  Suffice it to say that we have had NO culinary water to the camping trailer where Paco and I reside nestled just a smidgeon north of our home or our home where the housesitters currently live in anticipation of our returning to China for another year.  So, we're camping.  The water is still running murky.  We wait patiently for it to clear, but in the meantime we haul water to flush the toilet, haul water to wash our dishes in the camp basin, and haul water which we use to brush our teeth romantically under the moonlight each night.  And every so often when we begin to smell each other we sashay down to the neighbors' for a shower or boil up some hauled in water for a spit bath.  Does this sound like fun?  Our grandson Pete thought it was.  As for Paco and Mad, we are getting C-R-A-N-K-Y.  Nearly 3 weeks...UNCLE already!!!!!!!  But necessity is the mother of invention, and so yesterday and today Paco has been building

First he built the lower platform.  Because I am a tiny thinker, I thought we'd buy a 5 gallon solar shower off of amazon and stand here to use it.  Au contraire!  Up went a tower of sorts!  More questions!!!!
But then...

 I came home today and caught him in the act of moving our claw foot bathtub.  What?  You mean you don't have one of these that's been painted and sitting in your back yard for nearly five years?? --Inserting a  shoutout to Shelly whose painting skills should not go unheralded.-- Notice one of the claws didn't quite brave the move intact.  Who knew Paco was also a podiatrist??  This tub was salvaged from a home restoration of some friends and was originally headed up to the library to be used by the grandkids for reading.  Obviously it's been repurposed.

This was definitely a man of vision at work.  What I had taken for brooding the last few days was the incubation of a work of pure genius.  Hats off to Paco!

Note the compost bin looking on in disbelief through the fence.

 This 55 gallon steel bin will heat water very nicely in our hot summer sun.  
And then when it gets dark, we'll strip down, grab a towel and scamper through the moonlight...Perhaps it also has potential as a winter hot tub!

Voile'!!!!!!!!!  Isn't it smashing?? Ya'll come out!  Bring soap!  Rubber duckies!  No flashlights allowed. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

You Know You're Not in China Anymore When...

the local radio station in Brrrrr Lake is urging listeners during commercial break to take advantage of the hot sale on concealed weapons vests...

Friday, June 10, 2016


We're "sweeping up" today--ready to fly back to America in just a few minutes.

My interlude was going to be a whole philosophical meta analysis of the the political implications of China's recent change of one child policy compared to the economic growth patterns of urban China and the resulting catastrophes educationally speaking in the country mingled with scripture.

But instead, you'll get mops and brooms ("...silver and gold have I none...") and a brief soliloquy.  At no extra charge to you, the reader.  Incidentally, my reader count has plummeted in the last few weeks.  I assume responsibility for that--seeing as how I haven't written anything.

We've swabbed down our apartnment, washed the towels, left notes for the summer occupants, and taken out the trash.

I hardboiled the last egg, and I took four gelatinous rice pyramid-shaped semi-foods wrapped in an inedible leaf down to a couple of little 9 year old boys on skateboards (6:45 A.M.) in our square.  Oddly enough, they spoke perfect English--three years at Harvard with your dad probably woudn't hurt your skills.

We are trembly excited to return to our home.  I started singing the classic Mormon Tab  Choir hit, "Going Home", and unfortunately Paco joined in with some lyrics we had coined a few summers ago which went like this, "Mugsy Q.  Where are you?  Lying in the weeds?"  And so then I got a little misty-eyed.

This has been a fabulous year.  We'll see what Year 3 has to offer.  Who knew what China was all about???????????????????  Who?????????????

We're looking forward to 12 non-stop hours of American blockbuster movies and the occasional interruption with sub canteen food.



few smashing mops and brooms

You know how I love them.

And Paco standing sentinel.  He breaks his mold sometimes and cracks me up.

About those economic educational issues?  I'll get back to you.  In the meantime one of my students Fred is heading to Oxford to study them in detail.  Have I mentioned that I am extremely fond of Fred?  Well, I am.

We come bearing gifts.  The caveat is that we make no guarantees.

The only real guarantee I can make is that

I have taken

many pictures of 



brooms--for what that's worth...

and there's our taxi....

Monday, May 23, 2016

That One Day China and I Had a Falling Out

In perfect keeping with the past 30 hours or so of my life, the blogpost that I wrote (and it was GOOD...sob) vanished into thin air--"like the poems I never wrote and the boys I never kissed".  I will NOT let the cosmos have the last word on this matter!  Let me re-begin this saga by saying that I try and go with the flow of things.  I'm a firm believer in putting out what you want to get back and vice versa.   So you can imagine my chagrin yesterday in Xi'an when I was caught sharp in the wake of an undeclared war against me by China!!  I was unarmed and blissfully unaware that China was even annoyed with me. Let me back up.  I had decided to take a solo travel voyage to sew doll clothes with my friend Diane in Xi'an.  It was a straight forward five hour bullet train trip which went swimmingly until I turned east to return to Beijing.  After being shooed to four different windows (and standing in four lines) when I attempted to buy a return ticket using the temporary passport document we've used ALL over China (sometimes China seizes our passports to update work visas), the last guy passed me a scribbled note with instructions in Chinese for a taxi or bus route to a police station for more documentation--essentially telling me my existing documentation was not cutting it!!!  What the???  I've flashed the exact same paper in numerous airports and train stations all over the country.  Why this one NOT, why NOW??  In a panic I called home.  Jerry passed the phone to Lee who speaks Chinese.  He made no headway, nor did the Chinese desk clerks at our building.  Then Jerry called an embassy friend from church.  I'm still contemplating his response--"Plant yourself and cause a scene."  My "scene" was apparently unmoving as well even though I emotionally repeated in my best Chinese, "English teacher!  Peking University!!" as I wrung my hands and threw myself into it!  And oddly enough none of my Xi'an hosts answered their phones either.  I was at my wit's end. 
At this point my reason kicked in, and I determined that perhaps I ought to surrender myself to the police.  After ten taxis either refused to stop for me or drove away when I handed them the address, a villain entered my life.

This is a tuk tuk.  They have three wheels and no meter, so you have to negotiate prices before the ride. They fancy themselves part car, part bike, part superhuman.  They are semi-illegal, but I was desperate.  This guy must have been watching my futile attempts to get a ride and then zoomed up behind me on the sidewalk for the kill.  We negotiated a bit, and then I squeezed in with another gal that we let off at a hospital.  He and I continued to zip up alleys, around corners, getting air here and there.  At least we were moving quickly.  Then he ground to a halt in front of a hostel.  I knew that wasn't it, but I got out and limped in retelling my tale of tuk tuk woe.  The hostel dudes sympathized, warned me never to do THAT again and gave me real directions to my destination.  I mentally thought the tuk tuk driver into a cornfield!  Ten blocks walking and 12 stops on a cramped bus later I arrived at the police station.  Then it was up 18 floors to what appeared to be complete desertion except for a bed and a TV!  Are you SERIOUS?????????  Fortunately, some angel policewomen appeared.  After an hour of interrogation, they summoned an uber car for me and even paid the fair just because I was having such a lousy day in their fair city!  Bless them.
This time around I shoved my passport paper in AND a phone number the police had given me.  Unreal?????????  All that for a phone number???  But it worked.  Only now, five hours had passed, and no tickets were available, so that is why I ended up

on this 

for 12 hours...
Highlights included (but were not limited to) the following:

  • Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap--If you get a buzz from a bargain, this trip is for YOU!
  • Extra passengers!  
If you missed getting a ticket with a seat, heck!  Get on anyway!  Extras in the aisle, perching on sinks, sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags.
  • Smoking anywhere anytime

  • Boiling water for Ramen noodles.  I must have seen 75 bowls of noodles exit from the bathroom.

  • Benches with no padding whatsoever, fabric stapled to boards--think play props.  And no distinction between seats--just a bench for three.

  • Three hours of nonstop sunflower cracking by the couple across from me.  In their defense they smiled at me which I appreciated.  The crowd generally bore little resemblance to happy travelers...

  • A sick traveler throwing up in a trash can.  I fortunately KEPT my cookies when that happened, and for that I am extremely grateful.

  • A train attendant who punctuated each stop with a foghorn level announcement.  Inhumanly loud--very practiced. Prevented any and all sound sleep.

  • Perfectly performing air conditioning--set at 60 degrees.

  • Robust (loud enough to hear five cars away) expectorating in the same sink where you could wash your hands--or perch if you didn't have a seat.

  • Note to my loyal followers who will understand why I include this:  Periodically, an attendant took a small broom and dustpan and whisked his way down the aisle.  I tell ya...
The twelve hours did pass.  I alternately nodded off a few times, tried to find something on my Kindle, stood by the bathroom where at least I wasn't shivering, nibbled at my Oreos (a nice supplement to the toast I'd had that morning), sipped my water, and contemplated my lowly place in the universe.  Eventually, the sun rose and the outline of Beijing appeared to the east.  The train stopped, and my new friend Qi (we passed four of the twelve hours in perfectly congenial conversation) and I lumbered off the train toward our subways--me to line 4 and she to line 1 and her job at the hospital as a...wait for it...neurologist.  Yes, Qi studied neurology at UPenn for five years, a bit of a stroke expert actually.  Only in China could one chance to meet a brain doctor on a cattle train.  If you're keeping score and thinking China is one up on me, think again.  Qi and I have a date for the National Library and may very well have used our train encounter to launch a friendship.  And so it goes... 

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley